Mandela effect: what is it and how does it happen?

The Mandela effect refers to the distortion of certain memories, to the point of recreating a story that never happened. How does it happen?

A few years ago, I witnessed a conversation between two brothers who referred to the same episode from their childhood, but each mentioned completely different details. Each claimed to be right and to be a faithful witness to what he said. Who was right? It’s hard to say, because one of them may have experienced what’s known as the Mandela Effect . Let us see what this phenomenon consists of.

What is the Mandela effect?

Simply put, the Mandela Effect is a false memory. A person begins to reconstruct a situation or an episode, convinced that it happened that way, when in fact it did not. This new version is generally supported by other people.

It is Fiona Broome who is at the origin of this concept. It demonstrated that society was capable of believing in something that had not happened: Mandela’s death at a certain time and in a certain place, while he was in prison.

However, Mandela died quite recently (2013), after having been president of South Africa. People’s conviction was such that many claimed to have seen his funeral on television.

In his explanation, the social contagion variable was also included . Here are some examples of the Mandela effect:

  • Remembering having taken a trip as a child and describing the place where we were in the wrong way;
  • Reconstructions of movie scenes.
Construction of memories in the Mandela effect.

Many people may believe that an event happened in the past without it being true. And in this case there is no mental or neurological pathology that explains it.

Understanding the Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is related to the fact that the brain simultaneously processes large amounts of information and data , so it is difficult for the memory to store everything. So when the brain finds a void, it seeks to fill it.

This added data may be partial and of little importance, such as a false date, or a false detail concerning the physical appearance of a person. However, other deviations can be of great significance, such as claiming that a person attended another person’s funeral in one year, when that person died years later.

Many disciplines, such as psychology applied to the field of criminology, keep the Mandela effect in mind to distinguish when a witness is telling the truth and when he believes he is telling the truth when he is biased by his false memory.

A few explanations about memories

Research shows that memory does not remain intact:  it undergoes processes, constructions and reconstructions each time we call upon it . Often this information is distorted by third party comments.

Our memory becomes a fusion of ideas and thus creates false memories. On other occasions, this change is due to the internal processes themselves.

Moreover, the moment when the memory is formed is also associated with the circumstance. For example, if it is a brief or sudden experience, the memory quality may not be good. The intensity of the situation also exerts an influence, as evidenced by traumatic episodes.

Moreover, many events are stored with a certain emotional charge . During the reconstructed memory, new emotions emerge. Therefore, what we bring to the present from the past is not necessarily as faithful as we think.

Memories in photos in the Mandela effect.

Even memorized images of a photograph can influence memory, causing the Mandela effect.

Yes, memory can fail

Now we know that memory is not perfect and that different stimuli influence the reconstruction of an experience. That is why in everyday life it is important to strengthen memory using various techniques. You can, for example, use a notepad or a technological device.

We must add the fact that different perspectives are involved in the construction of these false memories. Indeed, everyone experiences a situation from their own point of view. It is therefore possible that the same memory has several versions.